By Miles in Florida
*Miles also took all of the photos used in this piece
“Someone to hold me too close. Someone to hurt you too deep. Someone to sit in my chair and ruin my sleep and make me aware of being alive. Being alive…”
As I was listening to these lines at about 11 pm on February 16th, I sat and quietly cried three rows from the stage in the seat C18 in the Gieldgud Theatre in the heart of London. I thought to myself “This is what I get for flying across the Atlantic for the weekend?”
This trip was supposed to be my gay pilgrimage to worship Patti LuPone as she splashes that Vodka Stinger in my face.
“I’m here to enjoy life! I’m not here to feel terrible about myself!”
As a newly out Asian gay man in my late twenties who moved across the globe to New York City for graduate school, I struggled to find true connections in the greatest city in the world. Sondheim’s “Company” has never resonated with me like it did that night and by the time I was walking out of the theatre, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I made a mistake moving to NYC.
Maybe NYC is not for me. Maybe it’s time for me to move on from my childish dreams of making it in the city. I felt guilty because I finally had what I had originally asked for and dreamed.
I kept hearing the character Theo say these lines repeatedly in my head as I walked back to the hotel. “But see, it and I, we just don’t fit. I think there’s a time to come to New York and a time to leave. Enjoy the party.” I used to hate that line when I was younger. Everytime I heard that, I thought to myself “Who is this stupid person!? Who would want to leave New York? That’s ridiculous!” At the age of 28, I realized that I was that stupid person.
Every story has to have a beginning so let’s start with that. I moved to New York City from Thailand in 2017. It had always been my biggest dream to live in the city. I remembered telling my parents that if I didn’t get accepted to schools in New York, I wouldn’t even go to the US. Thanks to my hard work, I did get into my dream school, Columbia University. I had this dream of reinventing myself as a whole new person in New York City. Lin Manuel Miranda wrote in Hamilton that “In New York, you can be a new man,” so I said to myself, “You know what, I’ll be a new man. I’ll be whoever I want to be in this city.” From the moment I set my foot on the plane headed to JFK, I told myself, “I don’t care how but I’m going to find my happiness, love, and maybe my soulmate in New York Citeyyyyy!”
Two years passed since 2017, and I didn’t quite accomplish any of my goals. At a hotel in London after getting back from Gieldgud Theatre, I felt like I was a big failure. My life in a nutshell was just like the Titanic. I started off so strong but then things started to spiral so quickly and I was suddenly sinking. I was about to graduate from an Ivy League school but I didn’t feel any smarter. I lost my passion for what I was doing and I had not a single clue what I wanted to do with my life and how to move forward. I had barely encountered a single successful Tinder or Bumble date; let alone, a soulmate. I didn’t even do hookups. I lost my self-esteem from the dating scene in the city. I was convinced that I was not good enough for anyone, not attractive enough, and meant to “die alone”. That night, I blamed New York as much as myself. I decided that I was done with New York City.
I was about to graduate but applied to other schools for a second masters degree in counseling to combine my interests. I had applied to schools both in and out of the city, but that night I decided I would go anywhere but New York. I ended up moving to Florida with no regrets on June 30th 2019 (Yup, I betrayed my own community by turning my back to 50th Anniversary World Pride Parade. Sue me!).
But you see, there are always two sides to every story and the sky is always brighter after storms. A year later, the furthest thing from New York, I was mucking horses’ stalls at the barn I ride at in Florida. I had an epiphany. I actually did find my happiness. I actually did find my love. And New York got me there.
I actually became a new man in New York City. I lost 70 lbs. I got to reconnect with my love of horseback riding because I joined the Columbia Equestrian team. I was happy strolling along Broadway, having my eyes met with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd while roaming the Shubert Alley, or bumping into Gavin Creel, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tom Sturridge on the same car on a 1 train. I made amazing friends that will be a part of the rest of my life. I wouldn’t be in sunny Florida connecting with top dressage riders in the world if it wasn’t because I started my new life in New York City. I’ve come so far and I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today if it wasn’t because of that “childish dream” to move to New York.
At first, I was going to write about my love for horseback riding but when I started to think about it, I realized that I owe that to New York City. I was 28 years old when I made the decision to leave. Now, I just celebrated my big 3-0 all by myself during this difficult time in Orlando, FL. I still haven’t found my soulmate to hold me too close. I still haven’t found anyone to hurt me too deep. I still haven’t found anyone to sit in my chair or anyone to ruin my sleep and I don’t know how much it’s going to take for me to find that person. If there’s anything New York has taught me, it is the fact that I don’t need another person to do all of those things for me.
I already did that all by myself. I don’t need anyone to make me happy and I don’t need anyone to make me aware of being alive. Of course, it would be nice to have someone by my side but I won’t settle for just anyone; I need someone who appreciates the small things. And with that, maybe I don’t need a soulmate. Maybe all I need is me, myself, and I (and also a horse). Someone told me a long time ago that New York will change you and I’m glad it did. It changed me for the better.
As I am wrapping up, another line from another song from Sondheim’s Company came to me. “Everything is different. Nothing’s changed. Only maybe slightly rearranged.” Nothing has really changed but THANKS to New York, I learned to rearrange things and look at things from different perspectives. THANKS for helping me realize that I am far from being a failure. THANK YOU for helping me realize that I have accomplished so much. THANK YOU for helping me rekindle my passion for horseback riding and leading me to my next home. I know it took me way too long to realize but THANK YOU, New York, for making me aware of BEING ALIVE and feeling alive!
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